Notes on The Sound and the Fury Themes

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The Sound and the Fury Topic Tracking: Compson Curse

April Seventh, 1928

Compson Curse 1: Here, Roskus gives his opinion on the state of the Compson family. This is the first reference to the family's unluckiness in the novel. Roskus, their black servant, who has known the family all of his life, had his suspicions confirmed when the family decided to change their mentally retarded son's name to Benjamin from Maury.

June Second, 1910

Compson Curse 2: Here, Quentin and his father are discussing the state of their family, most specifically, Quentin's troubled sister, Caddy. Mr. Compson explains his daughter's behavior to his son by saying that women in general have a knack for bringing evil to any situation in which they find themselves. Thus, Caddy's fall into disgrace seems only natural to Mr. Compson.

Compson Curse 3: Mrs. Compson is found complaining yet again about her family, specifically, Caddy. She begs her husband to let her leave with young Jason, her favorite, because they are not the ones bringing shame to the family. This is the first time in time in the book that we see anybody explicitly say that the Compson family is cursed.

Compson Curse 4: Here, Quentin recalls a conversation he has with Caddy about the young men she fools around with. Both of them have just found out that Caddy is carrying an illegitimate child, another mark on the Compson family. Quentin never finds her happy after being with all the men she is with, and thus asks her why she does it in the first place. She replies that she doesn't really know why, but that she feels there is something inherently "terrible" within her, and she sees that same awfulness in the faces of the men she sleeps with. The terror seems to almost haunt her.

Compson Curse 5: A pivotal moment for the pair of Caddy and Quentin, their exchange takes place after Caddy goes to meet Dalton Ames, the young man who impregnated her, but who was not her husband. Both are upset, yet Quentin is crying even more than his sister over what has happened to her. She tries to console him, telling him that she simply is just a bad, immoral person. He tells her explicitly that there is a curse on the family, which is the first time he ever says anything about a curse. Despite the fact he thinks there's a curse on the Compsons, in his quote he appears to feel guilty, not knowing whether or not the children are to blame for it.

Compson Curse 6: Here, Quentin imagines his entire family in hell. His parents are the guards at the top of the dungeon, while he and his siblings drown beneath in hell's darkness. This marks the first time he has included anyone from his family besides Caddy in his hell fantasies.

April Sixth, 1928

Compson Curse 7: In a fight that Jason and his niece, Quentin, have before he drops her off at school, she yells at him that she does not really care what happens to her, because she is bad and belongs in hell anyway. Here, she seems to echo the sentiments of her mother, who once said in an exchange with her brother, Quentin, that she is an inherently bad person and cannot help her behavior. Here, we see that Caddy's perception of herself as bad has continued to the next generation.

Compson Curse 8: Here, Jason's memory tells us about Quentin's parentage. It is confirmed that Caddy is her mother, but nobody, not ever her mother, has any idea who her father is. A bastard child living in the grand old Compson household embarrasses Jason and his mother to no end.

Compson Curse 9: As the family gathers for dinner, young Quentin throws one of her many tantrums. As she storms up the stairs, Mrs. Compson makes a comment about how her granddaughter is the judgment of two of her children, Quentin and Caddy, onto her. Because she never had a close relationship with those two, she almost says that what she is left with, her granddaughter, is her punishment from the two children that are no longer around.

April Eighth, 1928

Compson Curse 10: When Dilsey takes Benjy to her church service on Easter, she pays special attention to him. Something in the reverend's sermon truly moved the usually absent Benjy to tears. Seeing this touched Dilsey deeply, and she cried in turn, murmuring over and over that she had seen the first and the last of the Compsons. Being the one strong character among the entire clan, she is the one who can observe the downfall of the family. She thus declared the death of the Compson clan.

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